News Release

With Blinken in Ukraine: Where to on U.S.- Russia Relations?

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken is traveling to Ukraine with Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat@thenation.com, or via Ricky D’Ambrose, rdambrose@thenation.com, @KatrinaNation
Editorial Director and Publisher of The Nation magazine, Katrina vanden Heuvel recently wrote for the Washington Post: “The successful campaign to block Matthew Rojansky’s appointment is ominous for Biden’s Russia policy”: “When a new administration comes to Washington, the flowery rhetoric and springtime promises are often less revealing than who is put where to run the place. That’s why many of Washington’s most scurrilous campaigns are backstage fights over potential appointments. And that’s why the successful campaign to block the appointment of Matthew Rojansky as Russia director on the National Security Council is not only a sad reflection of the poisonous state of the debate on Russian policy today, but also an ominous sign for Biden’s foreign policy going forward. …

“Rojansky’s tempered realism is at odds with the strident consensus of the foreign policy establishment. The foreign policy ‘blob’ sees Russia as weak and paints Putin as the devil. They call Russia’s SolarWinds hack an ‘act of war,’ when intelligence experts describe it as ‘reconnaissance and espionage of the sort the U.S. itself excels at.’ They seem intent on extending the U.S. commitment to Ukraine, writing a check that the American people have no intention of backing. New sanctions on Russia are shortsighted and are likely to drive Moscow still further toward Beijing. The result is a self-reinforcing spiral of tensions and hostile postures strengthening hawks on both sides. For the Biden administration, Rojansky’s sensible perspectives would provide a necessary balance to voices such as Victoria Nuland, the hawkish new undersecretary of state for political affairs.

“Upon taking office, Biden promised a ‘foreign policy for the middle class,’ tacitly acknowledging that the debacles of the past decades have badly served all but the few. Keeping that promise requires profound rethinking. By reversing some of Donald Trump’s most egregious follies — returning to the Paris climate accord and the WHO, ending the Muslim ban, beginning negotiations to return to the Iran nuclear deal, extending the START nuclear accord with Russia — Biden has taken the first steps. Recalibrating our relations to Russia — and reducing the tensions around Ukraine and the Russian border — surely must be part of that effort. Getting that right will be much harder if sensible experts such as Rojansky have no place in the administration.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel is vice-president of the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord, a group interested in an informed dialogue about improving U.S.-Russia relations. The group recently participated in a talk organized by the Committee for the Republic (see background on the group) on the critical issues confronting U.S.-Russian relations, see video.